I do not remember the year I began saying on social media, in many different ways, Black Lives Matter. But I do remember what happened when I did. Friends were lost, of course. But it was the loss of family that disappointed me most.
I spent every summer and thanksgiving with my Italian family in Chicago. We ate. Laughed. Ate again. Shared stories. We especially loved ghost stories. As an only child, those gatherings filled me up with a sense of togetherness and connection that defined family for me.
There were also times I knew racism existed in my family. There were comments about the violence in black neighborhoods as they lived safely in white neighborhoods. There were some inappropriate “jokes” and the n-word used freely to describe a certain nut. There was the narrative about how “blacks took over our neighborhood”- the south side of Chicago. There was, “Is he black?” every time I met a new guy.
When I got pregnant at 19 with a black man I was afraid to tell my Chicago family. Surprisingly, they were more supportive than I feared. I thought, maybe my daughter and I would be accepted.
Fast forward to the time I started speaking out against police brutality and white privilege. The family list decreased. Heated discussions took place on timelines. More family fell off the list. But those were just the distant cousins. Then the sickness spread to the first cousins. Ignorant memes were shared and one was specifically called out by my husband, my daughter and myself. When that happened, not only was I unfriended and blocked, but so was my daughter and my husband. I called on the entire family to speak up. To stand for my family. To be the family they so proudly admire.
One called and talked over me about how my daughter is also white and how she was not raised to be racist. Another called and didn’t mention it at all. The rest: silent. Today, even after a few more white people have chosen to be awakened by the lie of white supremacy and the reality of white terrorism, they remain SILENT.
The motto of our family, as told by my father, is to do your duty/to do the right thing.
I asked of my family to do their duty, to do the right thing, to live by our motto, to actually stand for famiglia. Instead they choose to be dutiful to the lie of white supremacy. They choose to be complicit. They choose not to sacrifice comfort and being right. They choose to shy away from conflict. They choose silence. Because of this they have willingly sacrificed members of their own family— the ones that obviously weren’t fully accepted. And, of course they would adamantly disagree.
I too have willingly sacrificed these people, and the day I chose to do so was the day I knew exactly where I stood and what I was willing to sacrifice to do so. It was my duty. It was, and continues to be, the right thing to do, and I do it proudly.
A white woman on Twitter asked how she can be an ally without risk. The black woman she asked responded: Good luck. As Allie (above) said, if you aren’t willing to lose friends AND as I’ve experienced— family, then you are not ready for what this journey of dismantling the lie of white supremacy will require of you.
My ask then of we white people is this: do your duty, do the right thing and get yourself ready. And do it knowing there is no amount of sacrifice, not enough apologies, no amount of money or anything that is of value to you that can make up for centuries of white terror and white silence. Our awakening beyond this false construct of whiteness is way past due.